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Principal Glenn Reaves Interview

Even from an early age, it was clear to see that Glenn Reaves is a pioneer. He was the first person in his family to ever attend or graduate college, and now has an over 35-year career of blazing trails in education. Even retirement couldn’t keep him from getting out there to begin again!

Glenn’s professional journey was inspired by a high school mentor. “I went into education because I had a teacher and coach who was a role model for me. I watched what he did, the way he loved his job, and how he interacted with people. He had a huge impact on me, and I wanted to be like him.” And so, after college Glenn walked right into those footsteps. “I taught high school and coached for 12 years. I was head track coach for indoor and outdoor, and the varsity football defensive coordinator. I loved it and thought that would be my career.” But when a good friend moved into administration, Glenn started listening to his stories and a new interest started to spring up inside. When an opportunity came along, Pioneering Glenn jumped at the chance.

“I was recently married, had a new baby, was teaching and coaching three sports, but I worked hard and got my administration degree in a year and half.” While he may not have seen it at the time, the rest of Glenn’s educational career has been a series of facing challenges and creating impact.

First, there were two years as an assistant principal at a middle school fed solely by seven housing projects. “The school brought every problem and opportunity that comes with poverty. It was a great place for me to learn.”

Next were a couple of years working under a great principal in Wilson County, followed by his first appointment as principal, at Springfield Middle School. “When I arrived, 65 percent of the school was on free or reduced lunch. At the end of my second year there, we had gone from a B school to an A and maintained that status for the remaining five years I was there. We had gone from 81 percent proficiency to 94.9.”

Following Springfield was Beddingfield High School — the lowest performing in the state. It had actually been placed in state turnaround just prior to Glenn’s arrival. “The key at Beddingfield was that I was able to hire really great teachers. (If you can get them in the classroom they’ll make you look really good.)” Within a few years’ time, Beddingfield became the highest performing school in Wilson County. At the end of seven years, Glenn transitioned into superintendent roles until he retired in 2016 — a retirement that lasted just six months — before joining us at NHA.

Glenn’s recipe for successful leadership in education has three basic pillars:

  1. Expectations. “You must lead what you expect to see in others. I have high expectations for myself, our teachers and students. Good intentions aren’t enough. I’ve seen many times — especially in areas that were economically depressed — people can pity children, but that doesn’t help them. When you open that door, you make excuses for the child and the expectations drop, then the kid doesn’t get what they need. Children will rise to the expectations you set for them.”
  2. Standards. “Every school needs standards by which to measure and benchmark growth. We do students a disservice when we don’t provide a proper challenge. Their performance and achievement matters. I like to put myself in my parents’ shoes — it would be insulting to me if someone thought my child was not as capable as someone else and lowered the standards. We simply won’t do that here.”
  3. Support. “Once you have solid expectations and benchmarking in place, you need strong support to achieve those standards. This mix is what it really takes to be successful. It’s true for kids and adults — we need to do what we need to do, to get what it is we want to have.

So when it comes to Glenn’s pioneering approach to education at Winterville Charter Academy, “Our expectations are fair and clearly laid out, so they’re easily understood. We expect a lot of our students and our staff — but we’re always going to do what’s right. That’s worked well my entire career! I’m a father of three kids myself, so that’s the framework I always make decisions through — how would I feel if I made that decision for my own child? If you’re looking for a place you can trust, where your child will be challenged, celebrated and have fun — we may be the place for you.”